Mountain Misery                                                                                               —Jeff Ewing

The first deer I shot at I never knew
if I hit—he staggered a step sideways,
though it might have been simply
surprise—the fog torn like a luffed sail
sectioned and resewn to a wider veil,
the hemmed edges tacked to either side
of the ravine so as to shroud from the likes
of me out before first light this folded acre,
shinnying up a half-stripped alder my
sighted-in two-forty-three smelling of oil
and kit-kit-dizze, everywhere the astringent
waft of kit-kit-dizze—mountain misery—
sweet at first but over time clinging, oppressive,
my jean cuffs saturated so even at home
I can’t get away from it, even at school under
the noses of girls who’ve never been to
Calaveras the bitter scent accompanies me.
I imagine they can see me yank the trigger—
not the cool steady pull I’d been taught—
walking a few paces behind as I follow
what might be drops of blood or might be
moth larvae dotting the hide-stiff oak leaves,
further and deeper into fast-closing chaparral
where all I can hear is my own breath held
and released until I lose the trail in the fog
that’s been cleanly mended around me
with as much care as can be afforded from
ragged scraps back into whole cloth.

Jeff Ewing

Jeff Ewing’s poems, stories, and essays have been published recently in ZYZZYVA, Willow Springs, Lake Effect, Spillway, Into the Void, and Saint Ann’s Review. He lives in Sacramento, California with his wife and daughter.

ISSN 2472-338X
© 2018